The Endangered Asian Century
America, China, and the Perils of Confrontation
THOUGH the Indian Union is an infant state, India is no newcomer to history, no offshoot or colony newly risen to nationhood. She is a mother country, venerable in her own right; and her past, which is ancient as civilization, belongs to the essence of man's achievement on this planet. Nor has India lain broken and buried under the tides of history for so long that, in her reëmergence, she is a mere vestige of her former self. Measured against the millennia that went before, the two centuries of British rule formed only a brief, if critical, interlude. Now that is over, and India steps once more with unimpaired vigor into the main stream of human affairs.
Not only history, but India's geographical position, the idealism of her national movement, and the personality and teachings of Gandhi have combined to give her the distinctive place she holds in men's minds today. Standing midway between the east and west in more senses than one, she is, in terms of population, the largest single political unit in the world. Her initiative in calling the Delhi Conference on Indonesia in January 1949 brought together and successfully coördinated on an important question the views of a number of nations which had never met before as a separate group. And her leaders have behind them a lifetime of devoted public work with Gandhi, under whose guidance India turned a political campaign into a moral exercise on a national scale.
It is not easy to fit in Gandhi's teachings with any of the current social philosophies. As against the abstractions of the various "isms," he pleaded for attention to the elementary needs of humanity and enjoined a method of action and an attitude of mind and spirit as the necessary preconditions of clear sight and right judgment. He reiterated the most ancient ethical precepts, but he gave them meaning in terms of practical action and deduced from them social ideals which continue to be the inspiration of the great political party that he led to its goal.
The free India that came to birth on August 15, 1947, the India that acclaims Gandhi as the "Father of the Nation," has been largely preoccupied, so far, with problems arising from the conditions in which freedom was achieved.
Independence brought with it partition, and partition was the outcome of communalism. In India, in the last phase of British rule, communalism had developed into the demand for a "Moslem state," backed with the contention that Hindus and Moslems constituted separate nations. Gandhi during all his life had resisted this disruptive doctrine and striven for harmony between the communities. Partition itself was brought about by mutual consent. Even in the best of circumstances, the divisions and readjustments it involved would have caused some dislocation. As it happened, the long agitation that preceded it had inflamed communal fanaticism, particularly in the Punjab; and the intercommunal strife that broke out in that province thrust upon the new state a multiplicity of urgent and unforeseen problems. The prompt restoration of order was perhaps the least formidable of them all. In its wake came the immense task of organizing, within a few weeks, the movement of no less than 6,000,000 refugees, of improvising arrangements for their immediate relief, and devising plans for their permanent resettlement and rehabilitation. When was a "refugee problem" of this magnitude set before an untried government in the very first days of its existence and solved with equal expedition and success?
Besides surmounting this crisis, India has also had to undo the "partitions" effected a hundred years ago which had turned the land into a checkerboard of independent Princely States. More than 550 of them, varying from units of the size of the United Kingdom to hundreds of states each with an area less than ten square miles, were scattered over the peninsula. The internal frontiers that they raised -- artificial in most cases -- divided peoples who were otherwise homogeneous in every respect. There was never any social or economic justification for this arrangement, and nationalism had expressed itself as a popular movement within each state for the termination of autocratic rule and union with the rest of India. The political raison d'être for these hundreds of subservient enclaves disappeared with the disappearance of the imperial system in 1947, but the orderly liquidation of the powerful dynastic interests involved was a task as delicate as it was essential to the peaceful progress of India.
Constitutionally, the Viceroy had provided the link between the states inter se, as also between the states as a whole and the rest of India. When this nexus was broken, an indeterminate situation arose which might have caused endless trouble and disorder. The new Government, however, succeeded within a remarkably short time in obtaining the "accession," for defense, foreign affairs and communications, of all but a few of the states whose territories were enclosed by or contiguous with those of the Indian Dominion. By this means the Union Government resumed some of the powers formerly comprised in the concept of paramountcy, but the territorial fragmentation and the despotic personal rule remained as before. Since then, however, through patient negotiations and persuasion, these basic evils have also been practically eliminated. Except in a few cases, the states have all been either merged with the adjacent provinces or grouped together into larger units or sub-federations within the Indian Union. Simultaneously with this process of territorial reintegration, a fundamental change has been brought about peacefully in the internal structure of the states as a result of which representative and responsible governments have in all of them superseded the previous personal régimes.
In the two largest states, Kashmir and Hyderabad, the transition has been prolonged and complicated by the injection, from within as well as outside, of the communal issue. When the two new Dominions were created, the National Conference in Kashmir -- a popular and predominantly Moslem, though politically non-communal movement, which had for many years striven for democracy in the state -- took the view that a settlement of the question of Kashmir's relations with India and Pakistan should be deferred until such time as a popular and freely elected government in Kashmir was able to consider it. But the tribal incursions and the invasion by Pakistan nationals and the Pakistan Army in the autumn of 1947 precipitated a decision, and the National Conference as well as the ruler of the state separately applied to accede to India. Seeing especially the urgency of extending protection to the populace against the lawless depredations of the hostile forces, India accepted the accession, but stipulated that it should be confirmed by means of a plebiscite after the restoration of peace. As is well known, the dispute with Pakistan was subsequently referred, on India's initiative, to the Security Council of the United Nations.
Hyderabad, unlike Kashmir, is not a frontier state. It lies within the heart of India, surrounded completely by Indian Union territory. For social and economic, no less than for political and geographical reasons, an independent Hyderabad pursuing policies at variance with those of India would be as intolerable and dangerous an anomaly as an independent Kansas or Missouri in the United States. Hyderabad has therefore throughout its history been subordinate to the strongest power in India, the British, or the Mahrattas and the Moguls.
The attempt to reach a negotiated settlement with Hyderabad -- as the Union Government had reached with the other states -- was repeatedly foiled by a communal faction, the Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen, which had seized control of the state. To remain passive, in the hope that time would produce a solution, was to let the Ittehad, in a state where the population was predominantly non-Moslem, continue the rabidly communal campaign in which it was engaged, employing terrorist gangs and instigating hatred between the communities. India was not disturbed by the foolish threats that were being broadcast against her, but there was a real danger that communal disorders, spreading over Hyderabad, might break out all over India. Rather than permit, through its inaction, the occurrence of a tragedy much graver than the Punjab massacres of the previous year, the Union Government thereupon reluctantly decided to move its armed forces into the state.
The Union Government, like the national movement of which it is a product, has consistently opposed all manifestations of communalism and communal fanaticism. It has not lacked the will or the strength to deal sternly with both Hindu and Sikh communalists. It is determined that India shall not be a communal state, but a secular state, as it is, with a mixed population belonging to all religions. Its Moslem citizens, numbering approximately 40,000,000, enjoy equal rights with non-Moslems and occupy some of the highest and most vital positions in the state. Pakistan, too, has a mixed population, including a considerable proportion of non-Moslems; but Pakistan owes her origin to communalism, and the communal orientation has continued to color her policies. For communal reasons, there has been interference in Indian affairs -- armed intervention in Kashmir (on the ground that the population is mostly Moslem), and diplomatic and political intervention in Hyderabad (because the dominant ruling minority there was Moslem).
In spite of these adverse factors, the bitterness aroused by the partition and its attendant disorders has gradually subsided. Frequent and friendly consultations have been held, and agreement has been reached on a wide variety of subjects. Hyderabad, under a régime that will become increasingly democratic, has ceased to be fit material for exploitation for communal purposes; and tension over Kashmir, the main outstanding subject in dispute, has greatly relaxed.
Thus although the new India got off to a somewhat shaky start, she has in less than two years magnificently recovered and stabilized herself. Political Cassandras foresaw chaos as the sequel to partition and the departure of the British. Intercommunal strife, on the one hand, and the ambitions of a multitude of sovereign princes, on the other, they feared, would rend India and keep the sub-continent in turmoil for years to come. These prognostications have been proven false. India is stronger and more united than ever. Partition, no doubt, meant a "loss," among other things, of territory and population. On the other hand, there has been a "gain" (other than national freedom) in that, through bloodless revolution, territories and populations that had for a century or more remained apart have reunited with India. Considering that they account for 48 percent of the total territory and 27 percent of the total population of the Dominion, this is no small achievement. There are no longer "two Indias" -- the provinces and the states -- but one India -- the Indian Union, larger than either of the two, and more stable.
With the two interlocked conflicts out of the way -- the conflict with the British and the conflict over partition -- India is today giving herself a constitution which will reflect her new unity and freedom. Her main domestic problem is that of social and economic development, of obtaining the tools with which to carry out her projects of reconstruction. The solution of this problem, however, in all its ramifications, is inseparable from the present state of international relations, political and economic.
The broad facts about India's position are obvious enough. There are few parts of Asia where internal conditions are equally peaceful and stable. Her manpower and her latent resources give her an enviable advantage. Underdeveloped as she is, her organized industrial and military capacity still exceeds that of any nation in the east. She has no traditional enemies, nor has she acquired new ones; she has no vested interest of any sort in world affairs, except an interest in peace, a tradition of friendliness to all, and a readiness to coöperate with others for constructive ends.
Within this context, two specific objectives immediately define themselves as of concern to India: the abolition of racial discrimination and the liberation of subject peoples. They are intimately connected with her own recent experience and she cannot fail to pursue them. Her own liberation struggle was conceived, in one essential aspect, as a contribution to the freedom of all nations, and some progress has undoubtedly been made in this direction. But there are still a number of territories, mainly in southeast Asia and Africa, where the colonial status is being maintained, and the emancipation of which is being resisted by force. Racial discrimination, again, exists in more than one continent, notwithstanding the widely diffused sentiment against it, and its supporters are perhaps more outspoken and better organized than before.
In dealing with these problems, India is not actuated merely by emotion. If she has been vigorous in her opposition to the racial system in South Africa, and in her championship of Indonesian independence, it is not from any feeling of antagonism to the Dutch or the Europeans as such in South Africa. True, members of a community Indian by origin are among the victims in South Africa; and in Indonesia the victims are a people who have long cultural and historical associations with India. But more than sentiment is involved in these issues. Race discrimination and the colonial system, offending as they do the dignity of men and nations (and not only because they so offend), are essentially a part of the malaise of the world, and until they are removed there can be no health and strength in the world order.
Problems affecting dependent peoples, and involving discrimination and oppression, are specially acute in Asia and Africa. To resolve them, and promote the revival of these continents, and particularly of Asia, must therefore stand in the forefront of India's interests. Intrinsically, this is a just purpose and needs no ulterior motive to validate it, but it is bound up with the major conflicts in the world today and cannot be fulfilled in an isolated or self-contained manner. It calls basically for a new relationship with the west. For the understanding and consent of the west, given without arrière pensée, would ensure that the liberation movement advances without further violence and bloodshed, while the coöperation of the west could open the road to well-being for millions who are at present condemned to sub-civilized standards of living.
But the west is relevant to India and to the peoples of the east generally, not only because it must do its part in bringing about the peaceful transformation of an untenable relationship. It is relevant above all because, owing to the immense power at its disposal, the good that it can do is world-wide in its scope, as is the evil it can do. The initiative, on a global scale, lies in its hands. If it acts in unison and with goodwill it can guard the world against insecurity and divert incalculable resources from destructive to beneficent ends; and when it is divided, as now, the rift is a calamity in itself and may well be the prelude to the horrors of a world war. To whatever degree India may be drawn into such a war -- and she will, let it be said, defend her soil and her freedom with every ounce of her strength -- she is bound to incur, as she has incurred, her share of the suffering and starvation that will descend upon all nations. She has therefore a vital stake in peace. It is of paramount importance to her to avert a rupture between the colossi of the west, to mitigate the severity of the existing tensions, and to promote, as opportunity occurs, a reconciliation that can be only of benefit to the whole world.
There are conflicts and disputes in every continent today, affecting not only the local populations but the leading Powers of the west and, ultimately, the whole world. The alternative to a pacific adjustment would be so catastrophic that it is not wildly irresponsible to hold that the conflict or dispute itself may in the long run be of less consequence than the spirit in which it is approached and the methods by which it is resolved. This is not to imply that the substance of an international dispute or of its settlement is a matter of indifference to India. But, in forming her judgment, she cannot fail to distinguish between the elements of varying worth that enter into the complexity of each of these problems.
There are, first, the well-being and freedom of the people directly and immediately concerned, whose territory forms the locale of the dispute, and possibly a real disagreement over fundamental politico-moral principles (though here the area of conflict may well be narrower than one is always ready to admit). Secondly, there is, of course, in the case of many of these conflicts an element of preparation for future hostilities -- an anticipatory manœuvring to gain, or retain, positions of strategic advantage. Thirdly, there is the political and propaganda aspect, amounting to an interpretation of what is involved in the dispute.
Naturally, this interpretation of what is at stake is couched in terms derived from the particular background, traditions and policies of one or the other of the dominant Powers; generalized to cover all disputes in all parts of the world, it tends to influence the evaluation even of problems (such as Asian problems) which have a specific character independent of the conflicts of the west. A common practice is to formulate the issue as one of preserving or extending some particular "way of life," or civilization, or one economic and social system as against another. When these concepts are presented in terms of the west, and the reference is to a western way of life, or what is called Christian civilization, or some social philosophy that is stated to be identical with them, their appeal can scarcely be compelling to the masses in India or, for that matter, elsewhere in Asia. Being herself so different from the west in many respects, Asia can receive with only mild interest any argument that appears to carry with it a totalitarian implication that the world should forego its variety and the vitality that comes of peaceful intercourse between its component parts and adopt instead a uniformity of beliefs and institutions originating in one particular region or country.
Besides, the peoples of the east who have just regained their freedom, or are on the verge of it, face unique problems of their own. They have not only to repair the damage and straighten out the dislocations caused by two world wars and arising out of the present unsettlement. They have to make up for centuries of lost time. While in subjection, their natural evolution was arrested: the changes that a free society would have effected for itself, and within itself, under the pressure of changing conditions were deferred or suppressed so long as a foreign Power was able forcibly to control the course of events. Today their problem is nothing less than the renovation of their ancient civilizations; and they will guide themselves, not by the doctrinaire prescriptions of one social philosophy or the other, but, in addition to their own inherited genius and the specific conditions prevailing in each country, by such experiences and experiments as they may consider relevant from all the rest of the world.
Where international disputes are concerned, India, therefore, can do no other than endeavor to view them without fear or prejudice or passion; to appraise them, without parti pris, in the light of the specific facts of each case; to disentangle and concentrate attention on the human and moral factors that may be involved, and strive for a settlement by conciliation and agreement. This she has sought to do, notably in the cases of Korea, Palestine and the problem of atomic control. Such a critical and dispassionate approach is not compatible with a ready-made preference for policies and programs evolved in one particular capital. It rules out India's association or identification with any international grouping as such, whereby she might be regarded as having entered into commitments relative to a future war. It rules out, in short, her alignment with any power bloc.
This position has, no doubt, its drawbacks, but to abandon it would be unwise, and certainly contrary to the interests of world peace. The whole aim of nationalization in the east has been to free the countries concerned from implicit adherence to the decisions of a foreign Power. It would be strange indeed if, on attaining independence, nationalism were to consent to enter into a relationship where in the nature of things the power of ultimate and binding decision must rest with the other party. India, at any rate, is too conscious of her responsibilities, and of the need to preserve and develop the innate strength and self-reliance of her people, to participate in any arrangement that might induce a sense of dependence or compromise her freedom of action.
Moreover, the forces driving to war can be checked only by the most persistent and patient effort to bring and hold all sides together -- not by helping to build up the preponderance of one side, which in itself, and through its example upon others, can have no other result than that of widening the cleavage, pulling down the bridges and pushing the world a little nearer to the brink. This conviction is the mainspring of India's foreign policy. It impels her -- not toward isolationism or any fictitious neutrality -- but to extend the hand of friendship to all, provided only that the price of friendship is not conformity or subservience; to retain and develop all existing friendly contacts as well as to establish new ones. It was in this spirit that she considered the problems connected with her relationship with the United Kingdom and the other countries of the Commonwealth and reached the accord announced at London on April 28.
It is in this spirit, also, that she has adhered to the Charter of the United Nations and the organs established under it, which make possible the widest coöperation among peace-loving nations for constructive social ends and the maintenance of international security. India has participated fully in all phases of its work, and loyally accepted its jurisdiction, e.g. in the Kashmir dispute. Inevitably, the U.N. reflects not only the accord but the discords between nations, and the conflict between some of its dominant members is now acute enough to deprive the organization of one of the conditions of its effectiveness -- continued agreement and understanding between the leaders of the wartime alliance against Fascism. To bring together the divergent points of view and seek to heal a breach which may ultimately spell disaster for mankind have been among the main aims of Indian policy in the United Nations.
India's relations are bound to have a special degree of intimacy with the new group of nations coming into prominence in Asia, each as a separate entity and with an independent status in world affairs. During the era of western domination the links between them had been severed; they were cut off from each other more effectively perhaps than before the days of steam and electricity, and could not even meet together except under alien auspices. Their former contacts are being renewed gradually; and direct relations, it may be expected, will pave the way for frequent consultations and collaboration in matters of common interest and unity of action as and when needed.
For these countries have a tradition of peace and friendship among themselves. Predominantly agricultural and potentially wealthy, their resources are largely undeveloped or have been misapplied and directed to purposes other than their own well-being. They face in common a herculean task in increasing production and supplying their peoples with food, clothing, housing, education and health services. Practical wisdom dictates that they should concert measures of mutual aid in these matters. A world war -- whatever it may do for others, and it will do no one any good -- will mean for them the retardation for an indefinite period of their hopes of ameliorating the condition of their people. The conflicts, the animosities, the ambitions that threaten such a war are not of their making. Yet they cannot stand idly by, or imagine that they can insulate themselves against it; they must seek, with what power they have, to avert it, and by acting in unison secure for their joint policy an effectiveness that it would not otherwise achieve.
The distinction between the terms east and west, which we have freely used, is not merely geographical. It is more truly a distinction between peoples and governments preoccupied with the elementary needs of humanity, with food and freedom and peace -- and peoples and governments preoccupied with the more complex aspirations arising out of the possession of vast power. It is the distinction, as one might say, between the spinning wheel and the atom bomb. This is what lies at the root of the protest against "power politics" that is so often to be heard in the east. A population roughly equal to that of the rest of the world is for the first time claiming its rightful influence in the councils of the world. It demands that power shall be the servant of human welfare, not its master. There are still obstacles to be overcome before its voice can be heard clearly or before it can translate itself into unity of action. But its appearance should cause no anxiety except to minds too long accustomed to think of Asia as "a tool or a plaything."
It is time for a wider recognition in the west that we have come to the end of an historical epoch. The eclipse of India in the eighteenth century was not an isolated phenomenon: it was part of the world movement by which the science and technology of Europe captured Asia and turned it, under different forms, into an appanage of the west. India's reëmergence is likewise related to the revival of the entire continent. It is not a racial movement: it is not animated by any hostile intent. It does not further the aggrandizement of any nation. Its purpose is wholly pacific and constructive -- to broaden freedom and raise the standard of living. It is in consonance with all that is liberal, humane and disinterested in the western tradition. Its ultimate result must necessarily be to transform the politico-economic map of the world, and establish a new relationship between east and west. But the process is intertwined with what must surely be the supreme endeavor of our generation: to reduce and dissolve the disputes which, if widened or exacerbated, must plunge all the world into catastrophe. Whatever changes the future may bring, the Government and people of India will bend their energies to this twofold task.